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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Famous painter's rare picture of Bearsted pub goes under the hammer

07 August 2014
by Alan Smith

An historic watercolour painting of an old inn in Bearsted is up for sale at auction next month.

The painting by Victorian artist Helen Allingham is one of the highlights of the sale by John Nicholson’s Fine Paintings on September 24.

“The Six Bells, Bearsted” features the timbered village inn.

The watercolour of the Six Bells

The watercolour of the Six Bells

Buffy Parker, head of painting at John Nicholson’s, said: “Allingham’s work was not generally associated with Kent which makes this quite a rare work.

“She is most famous for her depictions of traditional architecture, notably old thatched cottages and farmhouses and in this case, an inn.

“As with all of her paintings, it is historically important. The buildings she painted were on the verge of being demolished as the Victorian railways cut swathes through the countryside of the Home Counties.

“Some critics say that, far from being simple picturesque scenes, her paintings show signs of economic dislocation at a time when tremendous change was taking place.

“Although this watercolour shows two children on a path with ducks approaching, the characters by the inn door have been interpreted as a couple begging due a lack of work in the countryside.”

Miss Parker added: “The story is that the artist was staying with friends at Bearsted when she came across this house.

“Although the weather was very cold and the season late, she lost no time in painting it, as its residents said that it would be pulled down directly after its owner, an old lady of 92, who was very ill, died.

“Having spent a long day absorbed in putting down on paper its intricate details, she went into the house for a little warmth and a cup of tea, only to find a single fire, by which sat a labourer with his pot of warmed ale on the hob.

“Asking whether she could not go to some other fire, she was assured that nowhere else in the house could one be lit, as water lay below all the floors, and a fire caused this to evaporate and fill the rooms with steam.”

Allingham was the first woman accepted into The Royal Watercolour Society in 1890.
The painting is expected to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000.

 

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